I commented on the ongoing challenges for the presidential election. While I haven’t seen any evidence of systemic electoral fraud, there are hundreds of affidavits alleging local fraud, including those where the deceased vote. The challenges should be heard and the evidence examined. However, the most worrying reaction came from Michigan this week when the Michigan Attorney General’s Office for Public Information, Dana Nessel, threatened a website, Big League Politics, with prosecution if a video of alleged election fraud was not released. The video may actually be misleading or incorrect. However, the threat of criminal prosecution by the Michigan Attorney General is a terrifying escalation in crackdown on freedom of expression in that country and calls for censorship on the Internet.
We discussed calls by top Democrats for increased private censorship on social media and on the internet. President-elect Joe Biden himself has called for such censorship, including blocking President Donald Trump’s criticism of the postal vote. Recently, Bill Russo, assistant communications director on Biden’s press team, tweeted that Facebook is “tearing apart the fabric of our democracy” by allowing such views to be freely shared.
The calls reflect the trend in Europe, where countries like France, Germany and England have criminalized the language with more and more examples of forbidden utterances and views.
The Cease and Desist letter instructs the site to immediately remove all posts, links, and the like that match #LeakDetroit. “Assistant Attorney General Danielle Hagaman-Clark states,” Failure to do so will result in criminal prosecution. ” There is no quotation for the provision of the Criminal Code that makes such an accusation or the publication of a crime a standard element in such notices.
The letter refers to incorrect information about how election workers counted challenged votes prior to 2020 and whether challenged ballots could be removed from the official count. Again, the claims could be misleading or false but I don’t see Nessel’s ability to criminalize such claims. Political campaigns are often filled with exaggerated claims on both sides.
As noted earlier, in cases like the United States v Alvarez, the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that such criminalization of the alleged speech is unconstitutional. The position reminds me of the English view that it must be forbidden to speak ill of the government. As the Alvarez Court found:
The theory of our constitution is: “The best test of truth is the power of thought to prevail in the competition of the market”, Abrams v. USA, 250 US 616, 630 (1919) (Holmes, J. differing). The first change itself guarantees the right to respond to speeches we don’t like, and for good reason. Freedom of expression and thought does not arise from the benevolence of the state, but from the inalienable rights of the person. And government suppression of language can make it harder to expose falsehood, no less. Society has the right and the civic duty to conduct an open, dynamic and rational discourse. These goals are not well achieved when the government tries to coordinate public discussion through content-based mandates.
Justice Breyer noted in his approval of Alvarez that our constitutional protection is compatible with the “general understanding that some false statements are inevitable if it is to come to open and energetic expression in public and private discussions, as the First Amendment tries to guarantee . “In the New York Times v. Sullivan case, the Court also found that”[the] A false statement is inevitable in free debate. “
Lord Chief Justice John Holt said in a riot trial in 1704 that it was absurd that speakers and writers “should not be held accountable for having people with bad views of government, no government can exist. Because it is very important for all governments that the people have a good opinion about it. “
The call for censorship and criminalization of the language has become a rallying cry for liberals in the United States. Even academics are now advocating language codes and censorship. The erosion of free speech on social media and the Internet has included calls from leading democratic leaders for years to institute private censorship of political speech, a view supported by scholars who have declared that “China is right” about censorship. Concern over Nessel’s threat is compounded by the fact that the claim calls into question the results of the election in favor of her own party and her political allies. If such publication is a crime, what would stop Nessel from prosecuting the New York Times or Fox News for such videos or alleged whistleblower evidence?
The threat of criminal prosecution should be withdrawn immediately by Nessel and her office.